The rabbit diet that we feed our rabbits needs to keep our animals healthy and in peak condition, so that we can breed for the advancement of the Rex rabbit breed.
This is what we feed each rabbit:
1) Diet includes a fresh, pelleted rabbit feed.
We have used and are using various brands, depending on availability and freshness. The brands available in your area may differ:
In our experience, the freshness of pelleted feed is a crucial factor. Even a mediocre feed that is fresh will support your rabbits, most of the time. Rabbits do best when a pelleted feed is no older than 1 1/2 - 2 months max.
We expect our rabbit feed to come with a date stamp, and we check it before we buy.
We also like the feed label to spell out exactly what is in the feed. The best quality feeds have a formula and they don't substitute lower quality ingredients when prices fluctuate. Using words like 'products' is a dead giveaway.
The commercial pellets are intended as a complete feed supplying all the nutrients a rabbit needs. Our rabbits would probably do just fine on just these (fresh) pellets. But in order to ensure our rabbits excel and reproduce well, we include a few more items in the everyday rabbit diet at Aurora Rex Rabbit Ranch:
2) Whole oats and/or black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) are added to the rabbit diet.
We purchase both of these seeds separately in 50-pound bags from the local feed store. We don’t feed rolled oats, which are blanched (briefly cooked) and then rolled flat, but we would if we could not find whole oats.
Our animals receive a teaspoon or so on top of their feed every day.
Whole oats are rich in immune system boosting beta-glucans, plant (phyto) chemicals and vitamins and minerals. Since the oats have not been processed, they provide fresh nutrients. The oats ensure enough live nutrition, and keep our show herd in great condition. This is especially important as pelleted feed can start losing nutrients due to age and storage.
Oats are also a good source of protein and oil. 100g (3.5 oz.) gives 6 g. total fat, 17 g. protein and 66 g total carbohydrate.
Oats: 70% carbs, 15% fats, and 15% protein
BOSS: 13% carbs, 77% fats, and 10% protein
Roughage (fiber) is very important to the health of a rabbit’s digestive tract. Many breeders keep field hay or sometimes straw in the cage at all times. Consistent use of straw or hay helps to reduce the incidence of potentially fatal enteritis. Oat hay can be used, as oat hay comes with the oat heads attached. The rabbits will eat it all, the oats and the fibrous stems. We most often use orchard or timothy hay.
If your pelleted feed provides large pieces of hay, and the formula provides a percentage of fiber that is equal to or greater than the percentage of protein, the pellets will probably provide sufficient fiber.
(It certainly does not hurt to offer a handful of hay per day or every other day when the pellets offer sufficient roughage.)
4) Fresh weeds, dandelions and garden sprout thinnings (in season)
In spring, summer, and fall is when we can add fresh greens out of the garden to the rabbit diet. When the spinach or lettuce goes to seed, we yank the whole plant and give it to the rabbits. They love them. (We don’t use herbicides or pesticides on our property). Our rabbits don’t get any 'treats' out of the kitchen.
In our barn, bunnies and growing rabbits get pellets at a "full feed" rate - as much as they want, every evening. I want to see pellets left over by the following evening.
Along about 5 - 5.5 months of age, rabbits begin to attain
their adult weight. They stop eating as much and their weight gain levels out.
This is the point at which the manager can begin cutting back on the rabbit
By the time our rex rabbits reach maturity (around 6 months
old for our 7.5 - 10.5 pound animals), they're getting about a cup a day, more or less. When
their feed is gone for the day, it's gone until the next evening. I don't want to see
pellets in the feeder the next evening, and if I do, I give fewer pellets to
that rabbit. This means that adult rabbits may have an empty feeder for over 20 hours a day. No worries - the rabbits still have cecotropes to eat and hay or straw to chew.
What is most important, no doubt, is to understand the nutritional needs of the rabbit, and then ensure the rabbits receive a rabbit diet that supplies every nutrient needed for optimum health, as best as one can.
Every breeder of show rabbits puts together a feed program he thinks will give his rabbits the edge over other rabbit competitors. We at Aurora Rex believe our rabbit dietary program conditions our rabbits well, and keeps our bunnies and breeding animals healthy.
We know that other breeders have put together what they think are magic programs that will give their rabbits a winning edge. I'd be willing to bet though, that the ingredient (nutrient) list is very similar, though the actual food items may differ.
Whether you have pets or show rabbits,
feel free to try the rabbit diet we use.
As long as the commercial pellets are fresh, we think your rabbits will
also become well-conditioned and healthy.